I've been asked to cast my eye over YouGov's latest Brown-esque "interventions" in the independence debate. First of all, as you may have seen on Twitter, they're currently running an "independence poll" that uses the mind-bogglingly ludicrous question "Should Scotland remain a member of the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?". That's identical to the question that BMG were rightly castigated for using a few months ago, and which they thankfully abandoned in their most recent poll. It's depressing to have to point this out yet again, but the reason the question is ludicrous is that the United Kingdom is a unitary state, rather than an organisation with "members" (as amply demonstrated by the Supreme Court only the other day), and "leaving the United Kingdom" is not synonymous with independence - Scotland could leave the UK to become part of another state, for example.
I see no reason to suppose that the next indyref will ask a question other than "Should Scotland be an independent country?", which was after all the Electoral Commission's own suggestion in the first place. However, even if there were much chance of a change, there is no way on God's Earth that the Electoral Commission would ever approve the "leave the United Kingdom" question that London pollsters seem to be hankering after, because a) it's inaccurate, b) it's misleading, c) it's biased, and d) it lacks clarity.
It's important not to jump to the conclusion that YouGov's poll is intended for publication, though - it might just be an internal testing poll (although even that would raise troubling questions about the firm's prejudices on this subject). Alternatively, they may have been commissioned by a partisan client who insisted upon that question for propaganda purposes.
Separately, YouGov have today released an aggregate of their internal polling on independence between late August and mid-December (using the correct question, I'm glad to say). The results show a modest swing to Yes since the first indyref : Yes 46% (+1), No 54% (-1). The point made in the analysis is that the Yes camp would have made more progress by now if it hadn't been for a significant minority of Brexit supporters switching sides from Yes to No. I've been a bit sceptical about that argument when it's been made in the past, because even before the EU referendum there had been a degree of movement in both directions. However, the YouGov aggregate does show that 25% of people who voted Yes in 2014 and Leave in 2016 have switched to the No camp. I'd suggest that's actually quite encouraging, because I suspect the next Yes campaign is not going to be relentlessly about Europe, and there may well be ways of bringing those former Yes supporters "back home" - which would nudge us closer to the 50% mark.
How would the No campaign counter that? Are they going to run a really nasty campaign based on fear of immigration from EU countries, and possibly Turkey? Maybe they will (Blair McDougall seemed to be hinting at that the other day), but if they do, they'll risk losing middle-class pro-European voters. A particularly high 14% of the people who voted No in 2014 and Remain in 2016 say they don't know how they would vote in the next indyref, so there's a lot at stake here. Remember that affluent voters are more likely to turn out, so if No become more reliant on lower-income voters without a university degree, that could easily work against them.
* * *
If you enjoy my writing, you can follow me on Twitter here, like the Facebook page here, or make a donation here.